Chapter 1: What Happened on 9/11?

Chapter 1: What Happened on 9/11?

What Happened on 9/11 can be explained by inadequate preparedness for an attack of this type and scope on American soil.  Inadequate vision and preparedness includes poor communication between the government agencies whose job it is to provide security and response.  This includes the national leadership.  All of this contributed to the relative “success” of the hijackers’ mission and the deaths of almost 3000 people in the span of 102 minutes.  The heroics of some individuals within the agencies were not enough to overcome an inadequate system.

The best description of what happened on 9/11 is the first chapter of the 9/11 Commission report.  I supplement this report with some graphs and tables, and minor description.  After, I discuss “unofficial explanations,” otherwise known as conspiracy theories.

Who were the 9/11 Hijackers?



Age on 9/11/01

Social Class


KSM Kuwait 36 Middle Mastermind
Hamalbi Indonesia ? ? Coordinator
Abd Al Rahim Nashiri Saudi Arabia ? ? Coordinator
Ramzi binalshibh Yemen 29 ? “20th hijacker”
Mohammad Atta Egypt 33 Middle Pilot
Marwan al Shehhi UAE 23 Middle Pilot
Ziad Jarrah Lebanon 26 Middle Pilot
Hani Hanjour Saudi Arabia ? Middle Pilot
14 of the muscle hijackers Saudi Arabia 20-28 From Lower to Upper Muscle
Fayez Banehammad UAE 20-28 ? Muscle

Critical to understand was the lack of proper coordination between the FDNY and the NYPD, and their differing organizational schema.

There was heroism and humanity in working within an inadequate system.  FDNY’s job was to go into building.  NYPD’s job was crowd control.  This explains the disparity in deaths.

Fire: 343 dead

NYPD: 23 dead

Port Authority police: 37 dead

Bush's Cabinet on 9/11 "The Vulcans"

Unofficial Explanations and Conspiracy Theories

Popularity of conspiracy theories in the US is difficult to estimate.  I have not found any good survey questions that are not biased in some critical way.  The Rasmussen Poll was sponsored by 9/11 Truth, the centermost organization in the 9/11 conspiracy movement.  Their mission:

TO EXPOSE the official lies and cover-up surrounding the events of September 11th, 2001 in a way that inspires the people to overcome denial and understand the truth; namely, that elements within the US government and covert policy apparatus must have orchestrated or participated in the execution of the attacks for these to have happened in the way that they did.

The poll is rather poor in terms of the questions they asked.    For example, take this much cited question:

“Some people believe that the US government and its 9/11 Commission concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence that contradicts their official explanation of the September 11th attacks, saying there has been a cover-up. Others say that the 9/11 Commission was a bi-partisan group of honest and well-respected people and that there is no reason they would want to cover-up anything. Who are you more likely to agree with?”

US government and 9/11 Commission are NOT covering up 48%
US government and 9/11 Commission are covering up 42
Not sure 10

When a question is poorly constructed, people can be confused as to what the question means and come to wildly different conclusions about it, losing reliability.  Worse yet, the survey analyst will have little idea as to what part of the question was confusing for the respondent.  The question ceases to measure anything, losing validity.

Problems of this question include:

(a) This is a double barreled question which, most of the time, is a poor way to construct the question.

(b)  includes jargon such as “cover-up”

(c) First choice does not say anything about the qualities of the people involved, but the second choice does (bi-partisan group of honest and well-respected people)

Main Conspiracy Explanation Allegations and Objections (from Fortean Times)

“The central allegations proposed by 9/11 conspiracy theorists [1] are:

—  There was advanced knowledge of the attacks, and some public figures (supposedly including Salman Rushdie) were warned not to travel on 9/11.

—  The planes that hit World Trade Center 1 and 2 were, variously, unmarked planes or remote-controlled guided planes or were guided in following a homing-beacon.

—  Some suggest that the plane that hit the South Tower had a mysterious pod underneath it and fired something prior to crashing into the building.

—  American Airlines Flight 77 did not hit the Pentagon, which was hit by either a missile or a small drone aircraft. Strangely, the only footage released of this from Pentagon security cameras shows no plane and is dated 12 September.

—  The collapse of the Twin Towers was due to reasons beyond the impact of the planes and the ensuing fire. Some have suggested that charges were planted in the buildings. This explains the demolition-style collapse of the buildings and numerous reports of people saying they heard explosions prior to the collapse.

—  Although appearing largely undamaged, save for a small fire, World Trade Centre 7 collapsed at 5:30pm on 9/11, in what many consider a controlled explosion. Coincidentally, the NYC Office of Emergency Management, the CIA, and the Department of Defense all had offices in this building.

—  The hijackers’ behaviour was contradictory to their faith and even risked exposing the plot.

—  Some suggest that United Flight 93 – the “let’s roll” flight – was shot down.

—  Cell phones do not work well at an altitude of 33,000 ft (10,000m), raising the question of how passengers called relatives.

—  Interceptor planes were not launched in time, despite the four hijacked planes’ transponders being turned off and despite the previously successful interception of planes flying off course.

—  The comparatively rapid removal of rubble effectively destroyed evidence of a crime scene.

—   Hijacker Satam Sugami’s passport was found undamaged in the street in downtown Manhattan; in contrast, the black box flight recorders for American Airlines Flight 11 and United Flight 175 were never found.

—  Some of the named 19 hijackers are allegedly still alive in the Middle East.

—  Reportedly, the hijackers comparatively poor flying skills suggest that they would have been unable to perform the actions needed to crash into their targets.

—  There was a large-scale military training exercise happening simultaneously with the hijackings, leading some to speculate that this caused confusion and enabled the hijacked planes to reach their targets.

What is a conspiracy?

It is planning, conducted in secret, to effect an outcome that is a surprise to everyone but the conspirators.  It requires the ability to organize disparate entities, people and organizations, and mobilize resources all without the knowledge of key actors[1] who would be hostile to the outcome and could prevent it from happening.

Who would be the essential personnel and organizations involved as conspirators?

—  CIA, experience with covert operations

—  U.S. military, experience with planes

—  Private organizations who can provide resources

Who of the key actors would be against it?

—  FBI, CIA, FAA, NSA and White House counterterrorism units

—  Majority of managers and bureaucrats in Department of Defense (located in Pentagon), White House and the organizations that comprise the intelligence community

—  Majority, if not all, of congress and their staff

—  Majority, if not all, of members of the mainstream media

At minimum, what would be required to do it?

—  Access to planes and missiles

—  Cooperation or elimination of all passengers on the planes

What, exactly, is the conspiracy?

—  Key actors knew in advance and did nothing to stop it, or they aided the plot

—  Key actors in the U.S. government orchestrating the events

—  Combination of U.S. and foreign actors in a mixture of events, from flying the planes, to controlled demolition of the buildings, to sending missile into the Pentagon.

—  9/11 Commission purposefully omitting key details that would expose key actors

—  9/11 Commission purposefully omitting key details, not to hide the conspirators, but for reasons of national security

What all of this amounts to is an extremely, extremely improbable chance that anyone of consequence knew beforehand of the 9/11 plot and either directly or indirectly helped it along.  The level of coordination is so massive that it would take a supernatural force to achieve it.  While legitimate questions remain as to what happened on 9/11, going down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories should be for “entertainment purposes only,” so much as these things are entertaining.


[1] One of the muscle hijackers boasted of the attacks to someone in no position to do much about it other than to tell authorities.  But not all authorities are in position to do something about the attacks:  “Mr. Nehm, the German prosecutor, described a conversation in which Mr. Shehhi mentioned the World Trade Center to a Hamburg librarian, in April or May 2000, and boasted: “There will be thousands of dead. You will all think of me. You will see,” Mr. Nehm quoted Mr. Shehhi as saying. “In America something is going to happen. There will be many people killed.” http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/10/national/10PLOT.html?ei=5070&en=058f49e473636e11&ex=1237435200&pagewanted=all&position=top

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